There were fewer traditional laptops at CES 2013, but that's because many of them are morphing into hybrids. MSI showed off the Slidebook S2, a tablet that transforms into a super-sleek Ultrabook, and Intel unveiled a beautiful, futuristic convertible concept. Meanwhile, Samsung displayed a major competitor to the MacBook Pro armed with special RAM acceleration technology that will help it perform 150 percent faster than the typical notebook. Here are nine laptops that stood out.
The Samsung Series 7 Chronos is a multimedia powerhouse that looks poised to challenge the MacBook Pro. This Windows 8 notebook not only sports a full HD touch screen but a new RAM accelerator technology that Samsung says will boost speeds by up to 150 percent. The all-aluminum body weighs in at a manageable 5.2 pounds, measuring 14.8 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches. A 2.4-GHz Core i7 CPU and AMD Radeon 8870M graphics card supply a ton of horsepower, and with a 1TB drive you’ll have lots of room for every photo and video in your library.
At first glance, the MSI Slidebook S20 looks like a tablet, but the display slides upward and essentially turns the S20 into an Ultrabook. Propping the display up also reveals the keyboard, giving you the ability to get work done on the go as opposed to being relegated to tapping on the screen to type out text. Weighing as little as 2.2 pounds, the Slidebook features an 11.6-inch touch screen and runs Windows 8. On the specs front, it packs an 1.7-GHz IntelCore i5-3317U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
The launch of Intel’s next-generation Haswell platform is several months away, but that hasn’t stopped the chip-maker from showing the kind of Ultrabook hybrid that will house its new CPU. We had a chance to go hands-on with North Cape at Intel’s CES booth and were impressed with its vibrant screen, responsive keyboard and luxurious soft-touch finish. We were particularly intrigued by the North Cape’s unique latching mechanism, which utilizes a magnet wire to secure the tablet in place.
The Atom processor-powered Tab-Book H160 has the distinction of being a Windows 8 slider that transforms from tablet to notebook with impressive ease. A button on the left side of the chassis activates a spring-loaded mechanism to slide up the display and makes sliders from the likes of Sony and Toshiba look like algebra equations. Too bad LG doesn't have plans to bring this hybrid to the U.S.
The Samsung Series 7 Ultra seeks to combine a beautiful full aluminum design with the versatility of touch. It has a thin profile at only 0.7 inches, and a sharp 1080p touch screen that responded well to our swipes. We also appreciate the backlit keyboard and JBL speakers. The touchpad proved smooth and accurate when performing Windows 8 gestures. Based on the time we spent with this Ultrabook, we’d say that the Series 7 has all the makings of one sweet machine.
While some of the lowest-cost Intel-powered Ultrabooks cost $549 to $599, the new HP Pavilion Sleekbook will start at a low $479 when it goes on sale January 13th. That’s not too shabby for a sleek 15.6-inch Windows 8 system with an AMD A4 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Rather touch Windows 8? HP has you covered with the $649 Pavilion TouchSmart Sleekbook, available February 3rd.
Vizio updated its 14 and 15.6 inch thin and light notebooks for Windows 8 by adding touch screens, more powerful processors and double the battery life of their predecessors. The screens on both (1080p for the 15.6-inch, 1600 x 900 pixels for the 14-inch) are as bright as ever. Despite the glossy finish, fingerprints and glare weren’t much of a distraction.
Lenovo won us over with the original IdeaPad Yoga‘s multi-mode design, and now there’s a little brother that will arrive just in time for the back-to-school season. The $799 IdeaPad Yoga 11s is only slightly thicker and heavier than the current Windows RT-powered Yoga 11 but switches the ARM processor for a Core i3 CPU that runs desktop apps. Lenovo is targeting about 7 hours of battery life, which is significantly less than the Yoga 11′s rated 12 hours. However, we suspect a lot of shoppers will prefer the versatility of running legacy apps on this hybrid. After all, the Yoga 11s costs just $70 more.
The ThinkPad Helix is unlike any other detachable tablet we’ve seen: it can face forward like a traditional clamshell or display backwards for showing movies or slideshows. The 11.6-inch panel has an impressive 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution, 400 nits of brightness, active stylus support, and 10-finger multitouch support. Meanwhile, the keyboard dock has Lenovo's signature key placement and can connect with the tablet via an NFC tap. Look for the system starting at $1,499 later this year.
How do you improve one of the best Ultrabooks? You add touch and let people detach the display to use it as a Windows 8 tablet. That’s the gist of the ASUS Transformer Book, which sports a 1920 x 1080-pixel touch screen, up to Core i7 processors and both a 128GB SSD and 500 GB hard drive. The 13.3-inch display felt a little heavy in our hands, but we appreciate that you can give it a rest in its back-lit keyboard dock. Pricing isn't nailed down, but expect the base config to start at around $1,299.